Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Dinner at House Candidius
Cass was playing her violin. Each note seemed to pour out of her as sound waves from a phonograph. She was no Lindsey Stirling. She could not play her violin and dance at the same time and nor did she try to incorporate dubstep into her playing, but she did something quite different that she felt was just as extraordinary, if not a little more.
She stood in a circle of torches and rain. Every note that poured out of her fingers had a different effect on the fire and rain that engulfed her. The flames danced every which way; the rain caressed her form, cocooning her in a protective embrace of heat and raindrops. When the tempo increased, as did the flames and rain. Sometimes a clap of thunder would sound just to add to the effect. When it decreased, the flames and the raindrops simmered down into the gentleness of a lullaby.
When at last the song drew to a reluctant close, as did the flames and raindrops, diminishing into naught but a memory of a recent occurrence. With a deep, shuddering breath, Cass set her beloved instrument on its stand.
“Have I told you that you are getting better every time I watch you play?”
Cass turned and saw Mar leaning against the doorway with his arms folded and a look of pride upon his face. “Every day I practice,” she replied as she stepped behind her dressing screen and began removing her wet clothes.
“Don’t make fun, my dear,” warned Mar.
“I wasn’t making fun,” Cass snapped as she stepped into the warm water of her bath.
“Good because it is a rare gift to be able to combine magic with musical talent. And though you are nineteen and currently blocked from my view, I can still tell you not to roll your eyes at me.”
Cass sighed. “I’m not rolling my eyes any more that you are standing right above me.”
“Goodness gracious, Cassandra! You think that after all these years I would disrespect your privacy?”
Cass said nothing.
“Dinner will be ready in an hour,” with that, Cass heard her door close.
She stared up at the ceiling. “One hour,” and she submerged into the warmth of her bath.
* * *
Liam took several deep breaths as Priscilla drove him to the address that Mr. Candidius gave him. He told her that he was going to a job that would put him to hard labor, which she was ecstatic about.
“I hope they work you until you’re sweating blood, Liam,” she had said as they left for their destination.
It took all of his willpower not to punch some sense and, more than anything, respect into his sister. He did his best to block her out of his mind as she ranted on about all the misfortune she seemed certain would fall upon him. All that he was hoping for was that he would remember all the manners that were beaten into him through the course of his life.
Only when they came into view of the property, did Priscilla finally quit talking. He could not say he blamed her.
As the trees cleared, revealing the house, all Liam could do was stare. Although it was a house that suggested wealth, it was not nearly as ostentatious as Snypes Estate. This house, in contrast, had a certain beauty to it that he appreciated. The weathered bricks suggested that the house had quite a few years on it—that is, with the exception of the large garage to the side which sat under an arched extension of the main structure. From what he could see, he guessed that a wraparound porch surrounded the main structure with a stairway leading up to a balcony above the garage.
“What a beautiful house,” he heard himself say.
Priscilla scoffed, bringing him out of his moment of near-swooning. “Are you kidding me? Someone needs to teach these morons a lesson in keeping up with the world and tear down this old piece of shit.”
Liam inhaled patiently. The sooner he could get out of the car, the easier it would be for him to keep his temper at bay. The moment came at last when Priscilla stopped just before she reached the circle driveway. He grabbed his bag and got out of the car as swiftly as he could, ignoring his sister’s hopes of misfortune. Almost as soon as he slammed the door behind him, she accelerated, almost sideswiping as she drove away. He could not decide if it was intentional or not, but she went a little off of the brick driveway, running over a flowerbed of young shrubberies.
Why did you give her a license, Mother, he wondered. Somehow, he feared that she was going to find some way to place the blame of destruction of property on him. He tried to keep his mind off of that thought and he turned and walked towards the house.
He found himself gawking; something his mother had repeatedly beaten into him was a bad habit. While telling himself over and over again not to gawk, he climbed the stairs onto the porch and, with a deep breath, he rang the doorbell. Not long after, the door swung open and his eyes fell upon Mr. Candidius. He was wearing a simple light-colored Sunday suit and his long hair, instead of being in a ponytail, was neatly combed behind his ears.
“Ah, if it isn’t Liam Snypes,” he said, smiling. He stepped aside, inviting him in. Hesitantly, Liam stepped past the threshold.
Once again he found himself trying hard not to gawk. But how could he not? Every direction he looked his heart was stopped by the exquisite beauty of the house. Everywhere he stepped, the polished mahogany floorboards did not creak. In three directions, the arched ceiling ended in opened doorways. The doorway in front of him sat underneath a curved staircase and through it, all Liam could see was a corridor. To his right, the doorway led into a large living room with a half circle leather couch that sat in front of a stone fireplace that seemed to be the only thing that Liam had seen so far that matched the exterior, with a massive flat screen television screen above it. To his left—and to his personal appreciation—bookshelves stacked higher than he could see covered the walls.
“I see that you’re taking in the details of my home,” stated Mr. Candidius.
Liam found himself gawking and, before he knew it, he was squeezing his eyes shut.
“What is it?” asked Mr. Candidius.
Liam opened his eyes and glanced around sheepishly. “I-I-it’s nothing, sir,” his words came out in such an awful stammer that he knew Mr. Candidius would not be convinced.
If he was unconvinced, he was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps before he could continue. Liam whipped around to come face to face with Cass and was taken aback—wait, why was he taken aback, he wondered. Unlike the gorgeous dress she wore a few nights ago at his parents’ charity masque, she wore a black blouse and her hair was in a beautiful knot that he knew to be a chignon, yet he found himself strangely allured by the simplicity of her appearance. Before he knew what he was doing, he took up her hand and kissed it.
She giggled and he quickly dropped her hand, abashed.
“Forgive me,” he said quickly.
“For what?” asked Cass.
Liam stammered, followed by another giggle from Cass and Mr. Candidius.
“If you’re apologizing for kissing my daughter’s hand, Liam, that is totally unnecessary,” reassured Mr. Candidius. “In fact, if I hadn’t known any better, I’d say that you were picking up on our predilection for customs that most might consider old-fashioned.”
“Well, you do remind me of a Victorian gentleman.”
Mr. Candidius let out a soft chuckle that, for some reason, released a considerable amount of tension from Liam’s shoulders. “I can vouch for that. Now you must be hungry, shall we take this conversation into the dining room?”
Liam smiled warmly and followed his hosts through the doorway under the stairs and to the right. The hallway was lined with exquisite paintings illuminated by bright lamps mounted on wall brackets. Mr. Candidius opened a door to the left and out came several wonderful smells that threatened to make Liam’s mouth water. Upon stepping through the doorway, his eyes found a table long enough for much more that the three place-settings towards the opposite end. Food dishes full of, noodles, and greens, that upon moving a little closer, Liam saw to be asparagus, and mashed potatoes sat in between the three plates.
Instinctively, he reached the chair that he assumed Cass would be sitting in and pulled it out for her. For some reason, he thought that she was going to laugh at him, but instead she gave him a bright, tight-lipped smile that somehow brought a smile to his face as well. He took the seat across from her and said a silent prayer before filling up his plate.
A few minutes went by where the three of them ate in silence. After a while, Mr. Candidius wiped his mouth and broke the silence.
“So, Liam, I understand that you have been away from home for a time?”
“That is correct, sir,” to a certain extent. “I’ve been at college.”
“Oh, yes?” Cass’s eyes lit up. “Where at?”
“Ohio University,” more lies.
“Ah, I’ve applied there; I’m still waiting for the return letter. What’s it like there?”
Liam had to fight off a gulp. He had only toured the campus. He couldn’t say that there were a lot of parties there—that was a default answer. “The professors are wonderful and the accommodations are worth every cent of tuition. On top of all that, it has a wonderful view of the countryside; you almost get a feel for the constant sound of nature. And every sunrise hits the trees like a beautiful song.” Everything came pouring out of him like vomit. Thankfully, they seemed to buy his little tale.
“Well, sounds like my young Cassandra has something to look forward to,” it sounded like the comment was directed more towards her. Liam wondered if she was nervous about going to the school that he had never been to.
A brief silence followed where they—or at least Liam—contemplated where they were going to go next with the conversation. Eventually, the sound of a phone vibrating broke him out of his reverie. He followed the sound and saw Mr. Candidius pull a cellphone out of his pocket. Liam cocked his head—not because of the general rudeness of having a phone at a dinner table, but because it was the first thing about his host that that he could consider modern.
“I am terribly sorry about this, but I have to take this call,” said Mr. Candidius.
“Wait, Mar, who is it?” asked Cass, alarmed as he was getting up.
“I will tell you later, now if you’ll please excuse me.” Liam watched his host leave the room until a door closed behind him.
“Does he normally get calls during a meal?” he asked.
“No, but when he does he usually ignores it, which means that there must be something wrong,” replied Cass, still staring at the closed doorway. “I think that it is time for you to leave.”
Liam gaped as she got up and began ushering him towards the door that he came in. “What? But I just got here.”
“I know, and I am really glad that you got to come over, but now is the time to leave,” Liam almost smiled at the reluctance that he thought he heard in her voice.
“Will there be another time?” he asked as they neared the door.
Cass smiled brightly. “There is always another time.” She kissed on the cheek and almost pushed him out the door.
Liam stood there in shock even after the door slammed in his face, almost hitting him in the nose. He tried calling his sister, hoping that maybe she would answer and come and pick him up, but it went straight to voice mail. Looks like he was going to have to walk the twelve miles back to his home—or at least what he could call “home”. He touched his cheek where Cass kissed him and smiled as he began walking.
* * *
Mar hung up his phone slowly as he took what he just heard. He sank down into a chair and did not even realize Cass trying to get his attention.
He snapped to attention and his eyes found Cass.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
Mar was not sure he wanted to answer her. “Pamela...she-she—”
“Is she dead?” shrieked Cass.
Mar reached out and laid a comforting hand on his daughter’s wrist. “No—thank God, no. She found a body stuffed in her refrigerator with a note attached to it.”
“What did it say?” whispered Cass, almost inaudibly even to Mar’s heightened senses.
“‘This is what will happen to you and the rest of the world abominations you call customers if you do not reveal the name of the Sanguimagus to this number…’”
Instead of looking fearful—and she had every right to be—Cass had one of the most beautiful feisty looks that Mar had ever seen on a woman.
“So this anonymous Van Helsing descendant wants to play dirty? Then let’s play dirty.” She snatched the phone from Mar’s hand and began texting.
“Cassandra, what’re you—”
“I’m simply sending a reply to that number that was given. And this cloaking spell I’m using will plant a virus in our new friend’s computer systems that will show them that we are not going down without a fight.”
Mar rolled his eyes. “And the fun begins,” he muttered.